For Victor Perez, an unemployed Fresno, Calif., construction worker, alertness paid off. On Oct. 5, 2010, Mr. Perez saw a news report about a girl kidnapped by someone in a red and white pickup truck the day before. When he left his home later that same day, he saw a truck like the one in the news report and decided to follow it.
Convinced that the truck was the one police were looking for, he used his car to cut off the truck.
"The second time I cut him off, the little girl stuck her head out, and that's when I said, 'OK, that ain't your girl right there,' " said Perez.
The man driving the truck eventually stopped and pushed the girl out onto the street, and Perez got out and stayed with her until police arrived. She was later returned to her mother, 12 hours after being abducted.
Eventually, police found the truck behind an apartment complex and arrested Gregorio Gonzalez, a gang member out on probation for felony domestic assault.
"I just felt like I was doing my part living in the same neighborhood as the little girl," Perez said. "I just felt like everybody should step up in their own communities and, when something like this happens, come together and try to do your part to help out."
Then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called Perez a hero: "This is absolutely extraordinary. He forced the suspect's truck off the road. I mean when you think about it, Hollywood couldn't write better action scenes," said Schwarzenegger.